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Anti-AIDS Campaign Revs Up in Beijing

With World AIDS Day coming up on December 1, the Chinese capital of Beijing revved up its AIDS awareness campaign on Sunday by organizing a range of activities.

The activities included a five-kilometer run along Chang'an Boulevard from the Xidan Cultural Plaza to the Millennium Altar.

Henke Bekedam, the World Health Organization representative in Beijing, and Jin Dapeng, director of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, were present at the Xidan Cultural Plaza, the starting line of the race and the central point of Sunday's activities.

Other events during the day included a mass consulting service with the participation of a dozen medical organizations, including the Beijing Center for Disease Control and You'an Hospital, and the release of Chinese-language brochures titled Act Now, which contain speeches of leaders from the Asia-Pacific region on combating AIDS.

Beijing launched a three-step campaign to curb the spread of AIDS earlier this year. Programs include making condoms available in public places, methadone maintenance therapy, and establishment of a trial government-funded needle-exchange program.

The municipal government has also promised to provide financially strapped AIDS patients with free medication, and their children will be exempted from paying tuition fees.

"Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS" is the theme of the 2004 World AIDS Day. The campaign explores how gender inequality fuels the AIDS epidemic.

Started in 1988, World AIDS Day celebrates progress made in the battle against the epidemic and brings into focus remaining challenges such as raising awareness, improving education and fighting prejudice.

According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS' (UNAIDS) AIDS Epidemic Update 2004, in some parts of China, such as Henan, Anhui, and Shandong, HIV was already spreading a decade ago among farmers who sold blood to unauthorized collection agencies.

Now HIV has spread to all 31 of the country's provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, with much of the current spread attributable to injecting drug use and compensated sex. HIV prevalence among drug injectors was measured at between 18 and 56 percent in six cities in south China's Guangdong and Guangxi in 2002, while in Yunnan Province some 21 percent of injectors tested positive in 2003, according to the UNAIDS report.

(Xinhua News Agency, China.org.cn November 29, 2004)

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